Recommendation

For healthy development in infants (birth to 1 year), physical activity – particularly supervised floor-based play in safe environments – should be encouraged from birth.

The importance of movement from birth to one year

From the time they are born, babies learn by interacting in a variety of ways. In particular, learning comes from how they relate to their physical, social and cultural surroundings. Giving babies daily chances to move freely helps to:
  • keep their bodies and minds active
  • develop their senses, often through natural curiosity
  • develop good posture, strength and balance
  • make them feel loved, happy and safe
  • develop language and communication skills
  • teach them about their body and the world around them
  • encourage interaction with others.
For babies who haven’t started walking yet, being physically active means having daily opportunities to move around on their stomach or back in a variety of free spaces, without being constrained by wraps or clothing. It also includes practising movements such as reaching, grasping, pulling, pushing and playing with other people, objects and toys.

Babies both enjoy and thrive on interacting with people, so it is important to make time to spend with babies, including time playing with them.

Promoting movement in babies from birth to one year

Babies need a variety of different play activities and environments throughout the day. Play activities that stimulate the senses also have the benefit of developing other skills.

Tummy time

Tummy time is important for strengthening head, neck and trunk muscles, and encouraging free limb movement.

Suggestions for equipment:
A variety of floor surfaces such as carpet or vinyl, blankets, fabrics and objects to encourage reaching and grasping.

Getting around

Play spaces need to encourage babies to practise new movements, and use large muscles for kicking, crawling and pulling themselves up to standing. Placing objects just out of reach encourages babies to move towards them.
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Suggestions for equipment:
Sturdy benches, tables, tunnels, hoops and balls.

(Note: Experts advise against baby walkers and baby exercise jumpers due to the risk of injury, and because they can delay sitting, walking and crawling.)

Sound

Noises during play help with areas of brain development linked to hearing, and can also encourage movement.

Suggestions for equipment:
Rattles, music, balls with bells, wooden spoons and saucepans, and containers full of rice.

Touch

Babies need to hold and feel a variety of objects, to help develop their touch recognition.

Suggestions for equipment:
Soft balls, scarves, stockings filled with scrunched-up paper, rolled-up socks and pom poms.

Sight

Moving objects that babies can ‘follow’ with their eyes can help develop eye strength and encourage movement.

Suggestions for equipment:
Swinging or bouncing objects, bubbles, fabric or cardboard books, toys that surprise (such as ‘Jack in the Box’) and games like ‘Peek-a-boo’.

Outdoor play and babies

Playing outside can help babies to learn about different surroundings and feel comfortable with the world around them. Some experiences that outside play provide include feeling grass, hearing cars and birds and looking at the sky.

Everone should be encouraged to show, talk and sing to babies about what they see, hear or feel, to help them enjoy outdoor experience. If there are no outside areas at a setting, it is important to encourage taking babies to parks or other local outdoor areas whenever possible.